Not A Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis

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The basics

Title: Not A Drop to Drink

Author:

Series: Not A Drop to Drink #1

- Not A Drop to Drink (September 2013)
- In A Handful of Dust (September 2014)

Add it: Goodreads

Goodreads Summary:

Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.

Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.

Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.

But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….

With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.

In short

Water scarcity is rampant all over the world, with water borne diseases making even existing sources dangerous to drink from. Lynn and her mother live in Lauren’s ancestral home’s basement, with a small pond in front of their house as their water source. They are always vigilant against those who may try to steal it from them, killing anyone who tries to broach their territory. When a group of men come at them from the south, Lynn and her mother kill four of them. Soon after, when they are curing meat to store for the coming winter, Lynn’s mother is killed by coyotes. Stebbs, Lynn’s neighbour comes to talk to her about the spire of smoke they both have noticed coming from the east. Lynn goes to investigate and finds a trio of city dwellers by the stream. Eli, a young boy, asks Lynn to take Lucy, his niece with her, as he has to stay to take care of her pregnant mother. Neva gives birth to a still born child, who Eli and Lynn bury. The five of them grow close that winter. When Neva comes to see Lucy at the end of winter, Lucy is very sick. Just then they are ambushed by the men from the south, who have captured Neva’s mother, and want them to exchange her for Neva. Neva agrees and later kills herself. Lynn spies on the men, and discovers that they run a trading operation with anyone who wants something, and has something to sell, even their bodies. They are building a dam over the stream to block the water flow and control it. The ring leader of the operation is Lynn’s father. Lynn, Stebbs and Eli attack the men to protect the water and to avenge Neva. In the fight, Eli goes up in fire, and Lynn shoots his to give him an easy death. She later shoots her father too. Lynn, Stebbs, Vera and Lucy live together with the people from the town, and they from a peaceful community.

What went down

  • Lynn and her mother notice smoke coming from both the south and east of their house. The one to the east they write off as no danger to themselves since they’re just burning wet wood all all times of day, which means they’re city people and probably have someone sick with them. But the one form the south poses a threat to their safety.
  • Lynn’s mother wants to leave the house and move south for the winter, but Lynn refuses. When a group of men come from the south to claim their pond, Lynn and her mother pick off four of seven, leaving the rest to scatter.
  • They kill a deer and start to cure it. When Lynn’s mother goes to the smokehouse to hang the meat, she is attacked by coyotes who are attracted by the scent of food. Lynn shoots and hit’s her mother’s thigh by mistake. By the time she gets to her, she is on the verge of dying and Lynn herself is injured. She is unable to save her mother, who dies from loss of blood and severe injuries.
  • Some weeks later, she is contacted by Stebbs, a man who lives nearby (they dont know where he get’s his water from, seeing as they never see a visible source of it) but never bothered them. They talk about the people on the east, by the stream, and Stebbs proposes that Lynn go and check on them.
  • Lynn discovers a boy, Eli with his sister-in-law Neva and niece Lucy by the stream. They are in dire states as Eli doesn’t know how to survive very well in the wilderness, and Neva is heavily pregnant. He convinces Lynn to take Lucy with her and take care of her for him.
  • They all form a tentative friendship, with Stebbs and Lynn helping Eli and Neva settle in better. Stebbs helps deliver the baby, which is born dead. Lynn and Eli bury it.
  • Lynn continues to care for Lucy, though Eli and Neva have a proper house now. They spend a happy winter together, with Eli and Stebbs visiting often. Lynn discovers that Stebbs has a well underneath his house from which he draws water. He has the ability to witch water, sensing where there are little pockets of water underground.
  • Lynn discovers Neva’s story: she had been raped by soldiers in the city, and their family was kicked out because she was pregnant with her second child. Her husband, Eli’s brother was killed while they were leaving by one of the guards. Bradley had sent them to this place because satellite mapping showed that there was a water here, but when they saw that the house was already occupied, they left Lynn alone. Lynn gives Neva a derringer in case she faces a danger to herself again.
  • Stebbs and Lynn discover that the threat from the south still exists, and now the men have electricity too. They are a group of looters who raid houses and trade with people who come looking for supplies, by putting to use anything useful that they might have to sell, even their own bodies.
  • When Neva comes to see Lucy, and move her back to their place, they find her very sick with fever. While they all are distracted, the men from the south surround the house. They have Neva’s mother (a doctor) with them, who followed her daughter out of the city. They want Neva in exchange for her mother. Neva agrees to give herself up, because she knows her mother will be able to save Lucy’s life. While they are taking her away, Neva uses the derringer to kill herself.
  • Lynn and Eli travel to search for antibiotics for Lucy. They raid several houses only to find that the looting gang from the south had already been there first. They find a house untouched some distance away, and take all the medicines they can find. Once they drop off the meds with Vera, Lynn and Eli bury Neva next to her son.
  • Lynn promises to kill the men who took Neva, because she knows that they’ll return again for something else, and most definitely for the water once the stream dries up in summer. Eli suggests they leave and speaks of a rumour that California is still normal, but Lynn refuses to move them from Ohio to California on the basis of a rumour. She goes to spy on the gang, and find that they are making a dam across the stream so that soon they’ll have full control over the water supply. Stebbs realises that the ring leader is Lynn’s father, who had abandoned them before Lynn was born. They decide to kill them all.
  • The next morning, Eli, Stebbs and Lynn set out to the south. Once Lynn shoots the sentry off his guard post, Eli throws one of his molotov cocktails at the town hall. Stebbs and Lynn immediately start shooting all the men. Lynn shoots her father in the shoulder, preventing him from killing Eli. Eli is hit by a bullet that sets the explosives in his bag on fire, and him along with it. Lynn shoots him, saving him from a slow, tortuous death.
  • Once they capture the town, Lynn goes after her father, who’s taken refuge in a house, and kills him. They leave just one of they looters alive, a man who has shown signs of kindness in the past.

How did it end?

Lynn buries Eli in the little cemetery with Neva and the baby.

Lynn and Lucy, Stebbs and Vera, and the people from the south form a sort of peaceful community together, with water enough for them all. They still guard against the wilderness and human poachers,but now they do it taking turns with everyone else in their little community.

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